A continuing push to stigmatize welfare recipients has taken a new and deplorable form in Tennessee, where State Rep. Stacey Campfield — author of the “don’t say gay” bill — has suggested that parents in families on assistance be held to a higher standard of academic excellence for their children, or face starvation.
Stacey Campbell has had it in for the poor and welfare recipients for some time, and has proposed drug testing measures in the past for those who get public assistance.
Masking his Jonathan Swiftian proposal as an initiative for “breaking the cycle of poverty,” Campbell opts to use hunger as a motivator rather than say, bolstering educational programs for at-risk or low-income Tennessean kids. The conservative lawmaker frames the myriad challenges facing financially strapped Americans as one of “accountability” rather than a years-long soft job market and skyrocketing living costs coupled with wages that have remained flat for decades.
According to Campbell, it’s simply a matter of watching their kids starve that will inspire the working poor — many of whom hold down two or three jobs and still qualify for assistance — and no educational or school-based initiatives would be a better approach than depriving already deprived children of basic nutritional sustenance.
The Tennessee lawmaker and welfare opponent writes:
“The third leg of the stool (probably the most important leg) is the parents. We have done little to hold them accountable for their child’s performance. What my bill would do is put some responsibility on parents for their child’s performance.”
Campbell’s proposal is wracked with so many ignored factors it’s difficult to know where to start. Families on assistance may be more impacted, for instance, by the work involved with an undiagnosed special needs child, thereby reducing their flexibility in the workplace and limiting their ability to earn as much as they might if their child were not challenged.
Following on from that, kids on welfare are also more likely to live in single-parent households, one where one parent must earn all the money and do all the parenting. Holding these families to a higher standard of academic output when the deck is already stacked against them is not only mathematically a losing proposal, it’s downright cruel.